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‘No qualms’: A Charlottetown taxi pioneer dies surrounded by love

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In the hours before his medically assisted death on Friday, Neil Harpham wasn’t worried about himself. 

He was fine. Relieved, even.

« I’m 74 and I’ve had my nine-and-a-half lives, » he said. « I’ve got no qualms about my life, that’s for sure. »

Harpham, a well-known Charlottetown businessman, was more concerned for those he was leaving behind.

Particularly, he said, his wife of 12 years, Deborah.

« Love’s a wonderful thing and when it’s kind of separated there’s going to be a lot of pain go with it and I feel bad for her, » he said in an interview on CBC Radio’s Mainstreet P.E.I., hours before his death at the Prince Edward Island Home.

« But aside from that, on my side, I’m happy. »

Suffered from cancer

Happy, he said, that he would no longer have to live in pain caused by three different cancers that were ravaging his body. He was getting weaker, and just moving around his apartment was getting to be a struggle, he said.

Soon he would have needed 24-hour care. Someone to help him walk, eat, go to the bathroom.

« Ain’t gonna happen, » he said. « My wife, she would do all that for me, but I don’t want her doing all that for me. »

Neil and Deborah Harpham on their wedding day, Aug. 3, 2006. (Submitted by Deborah Harpham)

He said he felt lucky to be able to make the decision to die on his own terms.

« The sadness of it all is that there’s probably 1,000 people or more around that probably wish they could but can’t. They just have to live through their misery until they die. »

The sadness of it all is that there’s probably 1,000 people or more around that probably wish they could but can’t. They just have to live through their misery until they die.— Neil Harpham

Harpham is survived by two sons, as well as Deborah, who was at her husband’s side and heard his final words when his suffering finally came to an end.

« He said I love you and I told him I love him, » she said.

On Saturday, Deborah said her husband, who operated two taxi businesses in Charlottetown, will be remembered « for the wonderful man that he was. »

« If you were ever in need, he was there for you, no matter what. » 

Even in his final hours, he was trying not to be a burden.

For instance, he was concerned about how Deborah would change the car registration into her name, since he wasn’t able do it himself on Friday because the roads were bad.

Started Santa Claus Parade

Harpham’s generosity extended into the community. In the 1990s, he brought the first Santa Claus Parade to Charlottetown with six of his taxis, a couple police cars and a fire truck.

« I couldn’t see Charlottetown not having a Santa Claus Parade, » he said. « The next year I had about 15 cars and we had eight or 10 floats and the third year I had 25 cars and I can’t even imagine how many floats we had. A lot. »

Every year around Christmas he would have Santa Claus in his one of his cabs to raise money for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

He won an environmental award for 40 years participating in the P.E.I. Women’s Institute’s roadside cleanup. He helped bring the Credit Union to Stratford.

In the days leading up to his death, many people took the opportunity to thank him for his contributions to P.E.I.

« I’ve been involved myself in my community so much that I guess I don’t realize it because I’ve always been that way, but the amount of appreciation that you find is at a time like this, » he said.

« I mean other times you’d be smiling and saying hello and talking for a few minutes with just about everybody and then it comes to a time like this and then you got so you realize just how close people were. »

That was evident one last time when Deborah came out of the Prince Edward Home on Friday after saying goodbye to her husband.

« There was 33 cars across the street, taxis, a tribute to him, » she said. « I thought that was just beautiful. »

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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